When a Word – Isn’t

Every once in a while I find myself being surprised at the simplest things. Here I was, sitting down to write tonight’s blog when the squiggly red line jumped up beneath one of my words, mocking my lack of a complete mastery of English spelling conventions. Grimacing, I did what most people would do. I right-clicked the offending word expecting the haughty, all-knowing dictionary within MS Word to correct my misconception. But then, nothing happened. No suggestions popped up. Huh. Well then, maybe my spelling isn’t as bad as the dictionary was hoping. Maybe I had found yet another word missing from that glorious database of words that has saved innumerable college term papers from failing marks. So, not to do things by half measures, I decided I best make sure my spelling was correct still. Maybe, the way I was spelling the word was so far from the real thing that the spell checker simply had no idea what I was getting at.

I take my writing seriously. I’m rather proud of my spelling prowess. So when I come across a case like this, I don’t mess around. I go right to the definitive source, one of my favourite “books”, the Oxford English Dictionary. Surely this bastion of linguistic knowledge would comfort me. This, pinnacle of vocabulary authority would surely confirm my spelling and score yet another victory for the literary mind over the not-insubstantial, (in fact, quite impressive) spell-checker. Except, well, it didn’t. It wasn’t that I had misspelled my word, it simply wasn’t there. I checked by spelling. I checked by root word. I even checked in the thesaurus and (silly me) I even consulted another dictionary! Nope. So there I sat. Stumped.

Huh. Go figure. I did a quick search using ye olde Google. Sure enough, I found the word used in all sorts of titles and sentences. I asked around with others. Yup, they knew what the word meant. But according to the experts, those linguistic professors that are the Popes of the English vocabulary, it isn’t. So there you have it. Epiphanal is not a word.

Epiphanal: adj. Marked by the presence of epiphany. “He had an epiphanal moment.”

Epiphanic is a word. Though, to be honest, I can’t remember the last time I actually ever heard the word used. I know that its meaning is similar to the one I had in mind for epiphanal. But in all honesty, outside of literary theory, I’m not sure I have ever heard it used. Huh. How about that?

So here I sit, having what is apparently not, as I had thought, an epiphanal moment. Perhaps I am having an epiphanic moment. Or maybe it’s just a moment of stark clarity and depressing realization all rolled into one. But more on that later. I have laundry to finish.


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